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Gensler Oakland

11 neighbors want Block by Block – a building block kit that records residents' visions for the future of their city in Downtown Oakland.

Block by Block engages people off the street and asks them to participate in Oakland’s future on two levels. Firstly, passersby will be encouraged to make a wish for Oakland’s Future by writing a note on a wood block. This note could be a wish, a dream, a problem solved, or a defining characteristic of Oakland now or in the future. Secondly the participant will be encouraged to consider the physical fabric of the city as they are prompted to place their wishing block, as if a scale model, on a platform painted with Oakland’s street grid. In placing their block they will have the choice to harmoniously add to what has come before, to be bold and different, to take a small part in a larger whole, or to stand out as unique.

Over the course of three days people will have the chance to interact with Block by Block as they wish, sometimes complying with the prompts and having a bite sized impact, and possibly ignoring the prompts to change the ‘city’ in larger than life ways. A hidden camera will be used to record the building block constructions, and the written notes will be compiled at the close of the Our City fair. The resulting video and notes will be presented to the City’s ‘Plan Downtown’ team for potential inclusion into their in-progress Downtown planning effort.

The setting for this playful experiment is a 10’ x 10’ wooden platform with two 10’ x 10’ walls. The two walls will be designed to imply Oakland’s skyline, and will contain the written prompts and tethered writing supplies. The platform’s floor surface will be painted with downtown Oakland’s street grid, and will be minimally raised from the surrounding ground. The Fair will open with a dense layer of precut wooden blocks arrayed on the platform, and end with a record of Oakland’s collective thoughts and dreams for the future.

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Supporters All

Our City
Douglas Wittnebel
Gregory Nash
Tom K.
Jake Levitas
Zdeněk Lanc



Downtown Oakland

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Really enjoyed this project in its built form - very accessible and engaging.

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Posted Feb 11, 2016
Douglas Wittnebel
Douglas Wittnebel
Feb 11, 2016

And our team at Gensler really enjoyed the efforts of putting this together. Wonderful to see the involvement and the written wishes on the blocks take shape and form over three days...

Posted by Douglas Wittnebel on Feb 11, 2016
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Douglas Wittnebel

Updated photos of painting session on Saturday, preparing the Block by Block kit

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Posted Jan 25, 2016
Jan 25, 2016


Posted by Dan on Jan 25, 2016
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